Posted on December 28, 2017, by Travis Pulver
Next to the CFP Semifinal games, the Peach Bowl may have one the more interesting match-ups of Bowl Season. In one team, the UCF Knights, you have the highest scoring offense in the country. In the other, the Auburn Tigers, you have a team that nearly made history this season by becoming the first two-loss team to make the Playoffs.
But the Tigers did the one thing they couldn’t do—lost a third game – and so they end their season against the best team the Group of Five conferences have to offer.
However, there is more to UCF than just their scoring prowess. They will go into the game as the only undefeated team in the nation. With a win, they will complete the first undefeated season in UCF history.
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But the problem with doing so well when you’re a smaller program is the big guys like to poach your coaching staff. Head coach Scott Frost has been hired to be the new head coach of the Nebraska Cornhuskers.
But unlike most coaches, he hasn’t left for his new job. He is sticking with his UCF team through the bowl game.
As for Auburn, when the season started, they were not sure what they were going to look like this year. They had high expectations for their defense and run game, but there was no telling how Jarrett Stidham would work out at quarterback.
Yes, he came from Baylor and Art Briles does know a thing or two about quarterbacks. But Baylor was a pass-happy system. Could Stidham be more than just a gunslinger? As it turns out, the answer to that is yes.
Auburn fans are likely a little disappointed they didn’t make the Playoffs. But their team has a real challenge on its hands in the high-powered UCF offense. Is the defense up to the task? Or will the Golden Knights complete their first undefeated season and send Scott Frost to Nebraska in style?
Who’s going to win?
UCF does most of its damage in the passing game (No. 7; 339.3 yards/game). So, it stands to reason that they have a talented quarterback—and they do in McKenzie Milton. The sophomore from Hawaii is a little on the small side at 5’11’’ and just 177 pounds. But he gets the job done (69.2 completion percentage, 3795 yards, 35 touchdowns, and nine interceptions).
He’s also part of a three-headed monster in the run game. He was second on the team in carries (93) and yards (497). Adrian Killins Jr. led the way with 112 carries for 762 yards. The third part of the trio is wide receiver Otis Anderson (58 carries for 456 yards).
But while he may have dominated the competition in the American Athletic Conference, the SEC is on a completely different level. UCF ranks as the top scoring team in the nation averaging over 49 points a game. Auburn allowed just 17.3 points/game this season.
They don’t give up much through the air (No. 15; 177.8 yards/game allowed). When teams try to run, they are also stingy (134.5 yards/game allowed).
But the bigger question for UCF may be whether they can stop Auburn. The Tigers are almost perfectly balanced regarding offensive production (rushing– 228.2 yards/game; passing– 225.8 yards/game). They may not score at the same clip as UCF, but they are quite good at it (34.4 points/game).
This game should be fun to watch. Auburn will likely be in control for most of the game. They are too good on both sides of the ball not to be. UCF, however, while overmatched in this one, the team is talented. It will struggle at times, but its playmakers will make some plays and put up some points.
But the UCF defense allows over 400 yards a game and Auburn will be more than happy to surpass that.
The Knights only chance is to get in a shootout, but its unlikely they have that kind of success against Auburn’s defense. The Tigers are favored by 9.5; they’ll win by ten (at least).